Red eye is a common problem that can affect one or both eyes. The redness associated with red eye comes from expanded blood vessels on the surface of your eye due to inflammation, usually from some form of irritation or infection.
Most often the inflammation that causes red eye occurs in the membrane covering the white of your eye and lining your eyelid. This membrane is called the conjunctiva (kun-JUNK-tih-vuh); inflammation of the conjunctiva is called conjunctivitis (kun-junk-tih-VY-tis).
Occasional, brief periods of red eye are usually no cause for worry. But persistent red eye, especially when accompanied by eye pain or vision changes, can signal a more serious problem.
Seek immediate medical attention if red eye is accompanied by:
- Vision loss
- Severe headache, eye pain, nausea or unusual sensitivity to bright light
- Inability to open your eye or keep your eye open
- A sensation that there's something in your eye
For persistent red eye that doesn't clear up after several days, especially if you have a thick or nearly continuous pus or mucous discharge, contact your doctor for an appointment.
Mar. 02, 2013
- Jacobs DS. Evaluation of the red eye. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Sept. 3, 2010.
- Koby M. Conjunctivitis. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/book/player/book.do?method=display&type=aboutPage&decorator=header&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..C2009-0-38600-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05610-6&uniq=210978719. Accessed Sept. 3, 2010.